Chapter Sixteen

These last seven plagues or judgements complete the wrath of God against a world that has rejected Him and His message of salvation.

The Command to the Seven Angels 

Revelation 16:1

Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.”

Loud voices are mentioned twenty times in the Book of Revelation, and when used in the singular it could be a reference to the voice of God to one of His mighty angels. This loud voice comes from the temple which was filled with smoke from the glory of God and His power according to Revelation 15:8. The seven angels have already received the seven golden bowls “filled with the wrath of God” and they are now commanded by God to pour them out upon the earth,

First plague

Malignant sores

Revelation 16:2

The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly and painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshipped his image.

It appears that all who worship the beast and go along with the new world government will be struck by this plague. Its effects will be enormous upon the health and well-being of those afflicted. It reminds us of the boils which affected people and animals in Egypt in Exodus 9:8-11.

Second Plague

The Sea turns to Blood

Revelation 16:3

The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died.

Similar words were spoken at the announcement of the second trumpet judgement in Revelation 8:8-9 but the results are different. The second trumpet judgement is caused by what appears to be a meteor crashing into the sea (probably the Mediterranean Sea). One-third of the sea became blood and one-third of its creatures died. In this second plague, the results are more catastrophic - this bowl of wrath causes the death of every living creature in the sea, one of the major food sources in the world. Consequently, this plague greatly attacks the food supply of the world. 

Third Plague

The Waters turn to Blood

Revelation 16:4-7

The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say: “You are just in these judgements, You are are and who were, the Holy One, because You have so judged; for they have shed the blood of Your saints and prophets, and You have given them blood as they deserve.”And I heard the altar respond: “Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are Your judgements.”

In the third trumpet judgement in Revelation 8:10-11, one-third of the rivers and one-third of the springs of water are affected. In this judgement all of the rivers and all of the springs of water are affected and they become blood. The results are catastrophic. The drinking water of the whole of mankind is now polluted. The health problems accompanying such a disaster will increase the agony of life. However, the angel in charge of the water proclaims the righteousness of God in this judgement because it is a just response to those who have killed the saints and the prophets. The world sheds the blood of God’s people, and God judges them by turning the water supply of the world into blood. God is answering the prayers of the martyred saints from Revelation 6:9-11 by avenging their blood with this plague. This plague reminds us of the plague in Egypt mentioned in Exodus 7:14-25.

Fourth Plague

Men are Scorched 

Revelation 16:8-9

The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify Him.

In the fourth trumpet judgement in Revelation 8:12 affects the sun, moon and stars reducing their light by one-third. In this judgement, only the sun is affected, and its impact is not a reduction of light but an increase in its capacity to bring heat to the earth causing people to be scorched by the sun’s burning rays. It is interesting to see what God is doing here because the sun has often been an object of worship, for instance in Japan in the shinta religion. The sun now turns into an enemy.

Most amazingly, even under these circumstances, people will not repent and turn to God, which so clearly shows their continuing wilful rebellion against God. 

Fifth Plague

Darkness and Pain

Revelation 16:10-11

The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. Man gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.

This is not merely a dark night with clouds, and the moon and the stars are not visible. This is a supernatural judgement that blackens extensively so people cannot see each other and no one dares to move. The darkness is so intense that is seems to intensify the suffering they were already experiencing. This darkness is a preview of hell which Jesus calls “a place of outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” in Matthew 25:30. Once again, the people are unwilling to repent and will continue to rebel against God. This plague reminds us of the plague in Egypt mentioned in Exodus 10:21-23.

Sixth Plague

Euphrates Dries Up 

Revelation 16:12-16

The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great Day of God Almighty. Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed. Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.

When the sixth bowl of wrath is poured out, a fascinating event takes place – the river Euphrates, one of the great rivers of the world is dried up. This occurs so that “the way for the kings of the East might me prepared”. If the Euphrates were to dry up, it would make it possible for great land armies from the East to come into the Middle East. The text speaks of “kings” implying that several nations will be involved. Since “all nations” are gathered against Jerusalem during the battle of Armageddon, we can expect that the armies of the Orient will be drawn into this final conflict along with the other nations of the world. 

Some Bible teachers connect this passage with Revelation 9:14-16 where the river Euphrates and an army of horsemen numbered two hundred million are mentioned. However, that passage very likely describes a demonic attack that occurs earlier in the tribulation period, whereas the sixth plague is the preparation for the final battle of Armageddon in which all the nations of the world are gathered against Jerusalem, the great battle the Hebrew prophets of old predicted would take place at the end of the age according to Zechariah 12:1-9; Zechariah 14:1-15. 

John then sees three evil spirits that looked like frogs. These “frogs” are demonic beings that influence the world political leader and the world religious leader. They are the source behind the ability of the world religious leader to perform miraculous signs which will enable him to deceive the inhabitants of the earth according to Revelation 13:13-14. Although it is true that God can and does perform miraculous signs, believers must not automatically assume that just because a miracle has happened, the source is God. Believers must discern the source behind any miracle. The ultimate purpose of these demonic beings is to gather the armies of the whole world for battle. Their aim is to wipe out the Jewish people.

In the midst of it Jesus speaks this remarkable message, saying of Himself that He will come as a thief. The second coming of Christ will be a surprise to many but not to those who are watching and ready. See Matthew 24:42-44; I Thessalonians 5:1-6; II Peter 3:10. 

John then mentions the place where the kings will gather for battle, which is Armageddon. This could possibly refer to a valley named Megiddo, which separates Galilee from Samaria. It was often the place where armies gathered together to do battle. The area is not sufficient for all the armies of the world but it may represent the central focus of all these invaders who intend to attack Jerusalem and destroy the Jewish people.

Seventh Plague

 A Great Earthquake

Revelation 16:17-21

The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, “It is done!” Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of His wrath. Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. From the sky, huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds each fell upon men. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible.

The last of the seven plagues will finish God’s wrath upon the earth. It will be the most catastrophic and terrible judgement ever to hit this planet. At least three things are clear from this passage about this judgement of God:

It will be the completion of God’s plan. In Revelation 10:7 we are told of the day that “the mystery of God will be accomplished.” In Revelation 15:1 we are told that “with the last seven plagues God’s wrath is completed”.

It will be the greatest catastrophe of all time. Four things clearly reveal that this is the greatest catastrophe of all human history. 

1. The magnitude of the earthquake. Earthquakes are frightening. They also cause much property damage and loss of life. This earthquake is the big one – there has never been one like it in human history. It will cause panic on a massive scale. Revelation 6:12 mentions a terrible and awesome earthquake announcing that the great day of God’s wrath has come. Now a more frightening and more extensive earthquake will end the day of God’s wrath. The whole world will be affected. Isaiah writes about this earthquake in Isaiah 24:18-20.

2. The destruction of the world’s cities. The major capitals of the world will be destroyed. This is a worldwide disaster of incredible proportions. The great city will be divided, split into three parts. This is not a reference to Jerusalem but possibly to Babylon, the centre of world government and religions during the tribulation time. The statement “God remembered Babylon and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of His wrath” supports this view. 

3. The disappearance of islands and mountains. The earthquake that begins the tribulation causes islands and mountains to be moved out of their places as we can read in Revelation 6:14, but this earthquake causes islands and mountains to completely disappear.

4. The dropping of giant hailstones. Though a similar plague hit ancient Egypt according to Exodus 9:22-24, the hail of Revelation 16:21 is the worst in the history of the world. These hailstones weigh about one hundred pounds each.

Nevertheless, the inhabitants of the earth will once again curse God and will not repent. Man’s heart is truly rebellious towards God.

Chapter Seventeen